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Swedish prospect Fallstrom living his American dream

Friday, 12.12.2008 / 11:00 AM / 2009 NHL Entry Draft

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Alexander Fallstrom's hardest decision has turned into quite the career move for the senior forward at Shattuck-St. Mary's.

Fallstrom's choice to make his way to Shattuck, located in remote Faribault, Minn., from Stockholm two years ago was a decision that caused the Swedish sensation more than a few sleepless nights.

It was a dilemma that was born out of seeing Shattuck play during a trip to his native Sweden a few years back, he says.

"We played Shattuck a couple of years ago back home and that's when I first found out about the school and since then, I'd been following the team online before they contacted me two years ago," Fallstrom said. "That's when I made my decision to come here and play because it's always been kind of a dream for me to play in the U.S."

Making the dream a reality, though, was not easy, as is the case with most worthwhile dreams.

"The biggest transition for me was just to leave my family because I'm really close to them and I had never done anything like this," Fallstrom told NHL.com. "But I get a lot of support from back home and they really understand why I wanted to come to North America and how it would help me achieve my goals and dreams, so they are big supporters.

"Once I got here, it wasn't that hard because all the guys on the team are great guys and they really took care of me and made it really easy for me to get used to the American way of living and how to play hockey here."

Fortunately for Fallstrom, his decision proved to be a big-risk, big-reward proposition as the Shattuck senior captain has watched his stock for the 2009 Entry Draft continue to rise.

Fallstrom, a traditional power forward in his draft-eligible season, plays on a line with Eric Haula, Shattuck's scintillating Finnish prodigy that is setting the hockey world afire.

Now, from the whispers among scouts, it seems a reality that Fallstrom will hear his name called at the 2009 Entry Draft at the Bell Centre, most likely early on the draft's second day.

"Alex is a big, strong, strapping player," said Tom Ward, the Shattuck coach. "He's kind of a rough-and-tumble power forward in the Tomas Holmstrom mold (of the Detroit Red Wings). He has a chance to become a great player because he's very intelligent. He doesn't play exclusively on a line with (Haula), but when he does, it's exciting to watch."

Fallstrom, who committed to Harvard in the fall, is exciting because he can both score and set up goals.

"I see myself as a power forward, but like to combine power with skill," he said. "I like to play hard, but my biggest quality is probably my shot, stick handling and my skating.

"This year, we only have four returning players and a lot of new guys on the team, so I feel it's my role to show the younger players the Shattuck way of playing hockey by how we go about our business and teaching them the systems."

At Shattuck, Fallstrom has re-discovered the scoring touch that came so naturally for him in Sweden. He posted 19 goals, 42 points and 50 penalty minutes in 56 games last season.

"The biggest transition for me was just to leave my family because I'm really close to them and I had never done anything like this. But I get a lot of support from back home and they really understand why I wanted to come to North America and how it would help me achieve my goals and dreams, so they are big supporters."
-- Alex Fallstrom

Yet those numbers weren't good enough to get him drafted in his first season of eligibility. He was ranked No. 159 among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings, but no team was interested enough in Fallstrom to invest a draft pick.

Somehow, Fallstrom remained confident and ready to go to work as a senior in 2008-09.

"It would be a dream come true to be drafted and one day play in the NHL,'' Fallstrom said. "That's what keeps me motivated."

The motivation has been evident with some of the head-turning performances Fallstrom has authored so far this season.

In November, Fallstrom chipped in 4 assists to play a role in Shattuck's championship run in the 2008 Nike Bauer National Invitational Tournament at the New Hope Ice Arena in Minnesota.

"It was great because I've been hearing from a lot of people how we were going to have a weak team this year since we didn't have that many returning players, so it was great to prove them wrong and win this tournament," Fallstrom said.

Jack Barzee, a Midwest-based scout for NHL Central Scouting, says he would be surprised if Fallstrom isn't plucked in the later rounds of this June's draft. In fact, Barzee felt Fallstrom was the victim of circumstances last year at Shattuck as a pair of famous younger brothers -- David Toews and David Carle -- enjoyed most of the attention. David Toews is the younger brother of Chicago Blackhawk captain Jonathan Toews and David Carle is the younger brother of Philadelphia's Matt Carle.

"I felt Alex was a good player last year but he was in the shadow of younger brother Toews and younger brother Carle at Shattuck, and behind those guys in development," Barzee said. "But Alex went back home and worked hard off the ice, got bigger and stronger and now he's able to carry the puck a lot longer. I'd be shocked if he isn't taken between the third and sixth rounds, because he's a player who has improved in every aspect that much."

Fallstrom's also much more conversant in the ways of North American hockey this season, which may make him more attractive to NHL scouts.
 
"I would say the biggest difference in the hockey here are the systems," Fallstrom said. "I think the hockey here is more of a straight-forward game by going hard to the net. I find there's not as much passing involved and that's the biggest difference that I have found."

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com.